MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — The concern over officers in schools was brought up again on Wednesday after a leaked document showed that the school system is planning to bring Montgomery County police back into the building.
Just two months ago, one student shot another at Magruder High School. County executives and officials pointed to that shooting as the type of incident they are hoping to prevent by putting School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools, but many advocates and parents of students say that’s not what is wanted or needed in Montgomery County Public Schools.
“The kids who were most impacted by these incidents that they’re saying they’re bringing the SROs back for, they don’t want them,” Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, co-founder of Racial Justice Now, said.
This debate has been ongoing in Montgomery County for years. The school system pulled SROs out of schools last year and currently has what they call community engagement officers patrolling in the area.
County executives say a cry for help is coming from the school administrators, especially after the Magruder High School incident.
Bob Veiga, the co-chair of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition, said, “You can’t take one Magruder High School incident and magnify it as — oh, there is crime in schools. No, there’s problems in schools.”
“The schools have legitimate concerns. They’ve gone about this in a thoughtful way getting to this point,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said.
Now, the school system is working to finalize an agreement with the police department that will put officers back in the building but keep a limited scope of what they are allowed to respond to.
“They only get called out of where they are to deal with something that’s truly criminal. Homicide, rape, other sexual assault and weapons,” Elrich said.
“He can say these things publicly, but where’s the accountability? Because last time I checked, MCPS can not discipline a police officer who goes against that,” Sankara-Jabar stated.
While some parents say this brings concern for their kids safety, they’re also pushing to have the mental health help that officials originally agreed on.
“We’ve asked for mental health supports. Not only have they not hired the social workers, they also have not bothered to include into the budget restorative justice coordinators. Instead they’re adding more security guards, even to elementary schools,” Sankara-Jabar said.
“Their priorities are ass backward. They’re not trying to help kids,” Veiga said.
Of course, parents and advocates are waiting to see the memorandum of understanding and hope to give their input on that document before it is finalized.
One of those parents told WDVM that if this does go forward, she’s looking at pulling her son from MCPS altogether and looking at other options.